Monday, July 28, 2008

I'm Confuzled

Annnnd we're back to the Sabres being mediocre. What happened to the "That's how you build" and "Things are looking better" that we were hearing last week? I didn't really expect the happy optimism to last but jeez. Did I miss something between the July 19th and now?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

100 Things, The Big Finale

I've posted three things pretty close together this weekend so make sure you don't miss Heather and Mark's trip to Bills training camp and a friendly debate about Derek Jeter.

Last time! (Thank goodness. This got pretty difficult around 70 or so.)

76. I hate shoes and I never wear them unless necessary. It's not unusual for me to carry my shoes or flip-flops to the car, drive barefoot, and then put them on when I get wherever I'm going. I own one pair of sneakers, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of boots, and one pair of $5 flip-flops.


77. I don't mind going to the movies or out to dinner by myself. In fact, I kind of enjoy it.

78. I'm a slob. Messes pile up around me and it never ever gets to the point where it bothers me. I would happily live in squalor. Fortunately for me, I married a neat freak who actually enjoys cleaning.

79. I'm a Christian and not in name only. I grew up Southern Baptist and am still Protestant. I would say that I'm committed but I have my moments. I'm not a crazy fanatic though, I promise, and there are definitely areas where I veer a little from the stereotypical Christian belief. We won't get into those here however.

80. I didn't really get Seinfeld when it was in first-run but now I think it's pretty genius. We watch at least one episode a day here, sometimes two. George is hands-down my favorite character. (Overrated: Kramer, Underrated: Puddy. Yeah, that's right.) It's way too hard to pick my favorite episode or moment but for those of you looking to kill some time, here are some of my favorites: Car Reservations, The Magic Loogie, Opposite George, George's Answering Machine and It's Not You, It's Me. I can't find a clip of it but I'm also fond of the one where George naps under his desk just for the following exchange:

George: Jerry, I'm trapped under my desk. Steinbrenner is in the room. You got to help me.
Jerry: Who is this?

Seifeld's delivery on that line kills me every time. It also cracks me up that when Jerry calls in his bomb threat, he asks for Fitted Hat Day.

81. I can't straighten my right arm all the way. Many years ago I chipped a bone in my elbow while playing tennis (I flipped over the net which I'm sure was quite comical if you weren't me). I was uninsured at the time so I kind of flaked out on the physical therapy.

82. I think fans who taunt Dany Heatley with "murderer" or other remarks about his accident are no class assholes. I won't say anything to them and it might be someone I like 99% of the time but in that moment? I definitely think less of them.

83. It bothers me that my iPod uses articles like "the" and "a" in certain menus and not in others. There should be some consistency. It also bothers me when people don't alphabetize their blogrolls correctly. The Willful Caboose and the Goose's Roost should be under W and G respectively, not T. I'm not going to quit reading anyone's blog over it or anything but I do take note.

84. I have a pillow named Mr. Squish. Mr. Squish is, to borrow a phrase, older than the trees. He's a feather pillow and has no discernible shape anymore. He's just a blob. But I love Mr. Squish and he goes everywhere with me. Road trips, plane trips, any and all trips. Any time I sleep away from home, Mr. Squish is there.

85. I own a life-size cutout of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Obi-Wan and I enjoy a Star Wars marathon, 2005

86. I love road trips. I do like that flying cuts down on the length of time required for a trip but I'd still rather pile in a car, crank up some tunes and hit the road. I think this partly goes back to my childhood because we never flew anywhere when I was a kid. I didn't take my first plane ride until my senior year of high school.

87. We also always stayed in the cheapest motel we could find. This is also evidently deeply ingrained in me. When we went to Ottawa for the draft Pookie and Schnookie were in charge of booking the hotel and they gave us all the prices so it's not like I didn't know it was a nice place. But I'm so used to free breakfast being a little box of cereal, a stale doughnut and warm orange juice that the first morning of the trip I wandered down to the lobby in my pajamas, unshowered and in bare feet to grab some food. I then discovered that free breakfast was actually a really nice hot buffet at a little sit-down restaurant. So if you were staying at the Courtyard Marriott in Byward Market during the draft and you saw a slob in a ponytail eating breakfast by herself one morning, that was me.

88. I love potatoes in any form. If we are what we eat, that's me.

89. The last thing I do before I go to bed and the first thing I do in the morning is check my email. It's not like the hours between 11:30 or so and 6:15 are big emailing hours - though I do have a couple of fellow night owls out there who email me then - but I can't help it. I have to know immediately if someone emailed me or commented here which also comes to me via email. I also check my email first thing when I get home from work. And every ten minutes or so after that. It's a sickness. I love my email.

90. I'm going to write a book some day. Really, I am. I have a few in a box somewhere and I'm slowly working my way up from godawful to possibly publishable by someone maybe.

91. According to Google Analytics, outside of "Top Shelf" and "Heather B," the most popular search term leading here is "Bucky Gleason." I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry. (I mentioned this in passing in my last Bucky-tagged entry but I sincerely love Bucky's TBN head shot. He looks so sweet and happy and then you start reading and he sounds like a cranky 78-year-old man. It's kind of awesome.)

Awwww... How sweet!

92. My job does sometimes involve physically restraining or escorting a child from an area. Take how awful that sounds and times it by 1,000 and you're in the general area. Heart-breaking every single time.

93. My favorite sound in the whole world is one of my kids really belly laughing and I am shameless in my efforts to get it out of them. Second favorite sound is whistling. I love a good whistler.

94. Growing up, the only professional sports team around was the Birmingham Barons, the AA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. Frank Thomas was probably the best future Major Leaguer I remember seeing although most people are more impressed that I saw Michael Jordan during his brief foray into pro baseball. (Birmingham did have other teams during my lifetime there - a USFL team, a CFL team - which I didn't know existed until right this very second - an Arena Football 2 team, and even an ECHL team - but none of them exist anymore or lasted super long to begin with.)

95. The one piece of playground equipment I still can't walk by without trying it out is a good swing. (Yeah, there is a reason I work with young kids. Gives me an excuse to act like one.)

96. I keep a log of all the books I read and have for a number of years now.

97. I've always wanted a tattoo but I've never been able to decide what to get.

98. I think I have nice (blue) eyes.

99. My parents are both left-handed which statistically means that half of their kids should be left-handed as well. Only one out of four is although I remember Lee doing a lot of things with each hand when he was little before he finally settled on his right hand. I always wanted to be left-handed.

100. I have the same internet password for just about everything and people who really know me could probably figure it out eventually if they really tried. Alert readers could probably figure it out if they wanted to commit enough time to trying things out. (Please, no attempting to hack my blog.) Every once in a while I'll come across a website that requires a longer password and if that's the case, I will never, ever remember that password.

Whew! Finished!

On Derek Jeter

In part 3 of 100 Things, I wrote a short list of things and people I thought were overrated. Included on this list was Derek Jeter. A fella by the name of Seth took great offense to that and let me know it in the comments. My response to him was getting very long so I thought I'd just throw it up here as a quick weekend post. As a set-up, here's Seth's comment:

You all need to start backing up this Derek Jeter overrated b.s. A-rod? Fine. Overrated. In fact, bag on anyone else on the Yankees (except Rivera, and maybe Jorge) and I'd be hard pressed to argue. But to just float out there that Derek Jeter is overrated is unacceptable. A career .316 hitter, closing in on 3,000 hits, 1996 Rookie of the Year, 3-time gold-glove winner, World Series MVP, World Series Champion (3x), Captain of the Yankees, and dater of hot women. That's not overrated, that's Hall of Fame.
Need more proof?

The Flip

and

The Dive

Okay, first of all, let me say this. Jeter is probably a Hall of Famer. When all is said and done, he'll be remembered as one of the most prominent players of his generation. "Overrated" does not equal "terrible at baseball." My beef with Jeter is the over saturation. The level of discourse about him and the tenor of that discourse is way out of whack for the player he is and it often leads to the ignoring of other players. Seth mentioned Rivera and Posada and they're a perfect example of the latter. They were every bit as important to the recent Yankee dynasty as Jeter but they hardly ever get talked about the in same way as Jeter. Jeter is a Born Winner. Those other guys are just his teammates, happily tagging along.

The one area where I will absolutely argue that Jeter is overrated is in the field. Gold Gloves are often won on reputation and I definitely feel that's the case here. As Seth suggests, let's go to the tape. I think the two following plays have done more to contribute to the myth of Derek Jeter than anything else.

In the first video (linked above), Jeter shows remarkable hustle and heads-up play. But to give him all the credit, which the announcer on the clip does, ignores the fact that one, the right-fielder who is NEVER called by name in the clip, made a near perfect throw down the line that probably would've gotten to Posada even without Jeter's involvement and two, Posada set up perfectly, fielded the flip, and placed the tag, a tough play that he made look easy. (It also completely ignores the fact that Jeremy Giambi was an idiot not to slide in that situation but that's beside the main point.)

The second video (also linked above) is the play where Jeter tracks down a pop fly, catches it, takes a bunch of steps, and then dives dramatically into the stands. Ummm... great? Jeter definitely does a godd job of sticking with the ball and he covers a lot of ground, but is he the only player to go into the stands in an effort to make a defensive play? The only player to bleed on the field? Listen, at risk of upsetting even more Jeter fans, that little swan dive wasn't entirely necessary. He had plenty of room to start slowing down and bring himself to a stop against the railing. Maybe his momentum takes him over the railing a little. But three rows into the stands? Really, Jeter? If this were hockey he would've gotten two minutes on that play. I could spend fifteen minutes on YouTube and find fifteen catches more impressive than that one, ones where the player leaves his feet because he has to in order to get to the ball.

By almost every measure - range factor, zone rating, actually watching other shortstops in the league - Jeter is a below average defensive shortstop. The question about his defense isn't, "Is he good or average?" The question is, "Is he slightly below average or terrible?" He's not even the best defensive shortstop on his side of the Yankees' infield. Hey, quick joke for you. What do you call a ground ball to Jeter's left? A single up the middle! Wocka, wocka, wocka!

At the plate his numbers are more impressive but even then they don't justify his deification. As a quick comparison, we'll use Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros. Jeter's career batting average is 12 points higher right now but that still makes Berkman a .300 career hitter and Berkman has a higher OBP, slugging %, and OPS. Berkman hits into slightly fewer DPs per season. They average exactly the same number of strikeouts per season. Berkman averages more home runs, more RBIs, slightly more doubles, and a couple fewer triples. So they're pretty comparable. But Jeter plays under the bright lights of New York City for a team that drafted well early in his career and always has one of the highest payrolls in baseball while Berkman plays in the middle of the U.S. for a small market NL team that hasn't shown a propensity to draft well OR spend a lot of money. Berkman has spent a number of seasons as one of the few consistent bats in the Astros line-up whereas Jeter has always been surrounded by offensive talent, including one of the very best hitters in baseball. Jeter is always the center of conversation in every Yankees game that's on national TV. He gets tons of glory when he's playing well and tons of glory when he isn't playing well. He gets very little criticism. Berkman doesn't get much national attention at all regardless of how he's playing.

In conclusion:

Very good at baseball: Lance Berkman AND Derek Jeter
Underrated: Lance Berkman, Overrated: Derek Jeter.

Your mileage may vary. Obviously.

(By the way, Alex Rodriguez is not overrated. Lacking in personality and not that much fun to watch? Definitely debatable. Overrated? No, I don't think so. Jeter has had 7 post-seasons where he hit above .400 but he's also had 7 post-seasons where he's hit under .250, mostly the more recent ones. The Yankees not producing in the last few playoffs is not solely on Rodriguez. He doesn't hit for everyone else and he doesn't pitch. They might not have even made it to the playoffs last season if not for him. The amount of crap Rodriguez has taken from Yankees fans during his time there is crazy.)

* All statistics cited were taken from Baseball-Reference. And for the record, I also think Derek Jeter is totally average looking while Lance Berkman is as cute as a bug's ear. Jeter dates hot women? Yeah, what single professional athlete doesn't? Berkman is married to his college sweetheart, dotes on his three little girls, goes to church every week, drinks chocolate milk, and says things like "Good gracious!" So even off the field Jeter is overrated while Berkman is underrrated.





(Thanks for the comment, Seth! I love when people express their disagreement in a thought-out and reasonable manner.)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Heather and Mark Do Buffalo: Bills Training Camp

We're going to ignore the fact that training camp is not actually in Buffalo and focus on the fact that the Bills are. Except for now. And those games in Toronto. Otherwise, they're totally in Buffalo.

I'll be honest, I'm not a huge football fan. I mostly understand it but I just don't find it terribly interesting. I don't get people who complain about baseball being slow but spend an entire day watching football. I'm pretty sure if you take away the pregame, half-time, and postgame shows, the commercial breaks, the huddling, and the running on and off the fields, you're left with 12 minutes of actual play per game. I grew up in Alabama where college football is the equivalent of life itself and I managed to escape without really falling in love with the sport (although I highly recommend attending a big SEC game if you ever have the chance because the atmosphere really is amazing and you can't help but get sucked into the sheer joy and insanity of it all) so I figured that was pretty much all she wrote for football and me.

But I kind of got into the Bills last season which is crazy considering that they weren't really that good. I thought there was something really likable about them and so I'm going to try and make an effort to follow them this season. I might even play fantasy football which will be a first. I've played baseball and hockey but that's it. Oh, and I got a Bills jersey for Christmas. So you know, there are seeds of interest there.

Okay, so I wrote all of the above before we actually left for training camp. Sounds pretty happy and optimistic, right? Well... little did I know.

I should start at the beginning. Mark and I decided to junk some of our current furniture rather than bother moving it to the house and the junkers came this morning to cart it all away. This furniture has been in the same place for four or five years so moving it kicked up all kinds of dust which had my sinuses going completely haywire after what was already a tough week in that regard. My head was throbbing, my eyes were watering, and I could feel everything creeping toward my left ear. Those of you following 100 Things will recall that I am friggin' miserable when my ears hurt.

When the very nice junk guys left, we filled up our gas tank, and headed out. We got all the way to the general Rochester area with no problems at all.

And then we got lost.

And then we got lost in another direction.

And then we got lost in yet another direction.

We saw all of Pittsford and the surrounding towns at least three times and while it's a cute little place, it's just not really that interesting. We finally pulled over so Mark could ask for directions and take over the wheel. I promptly curled into a ball of misery.

Kill me now.

It wasn't pretty. Mark was crabby that somewhere the afternoon practice had already started and I was crabby because I hated everything about life at that moment. The place where we stopped had no idea where we needed to go but they were kind enough to pull up Mapquest directions for us.

We finally found the off-location parking and we were then bussed to St. John Fisher's College. I ride a bus to another building for our specials classes (gym, art etc.) every day so this isn't an unusual thing for me but it was pretty amusing seeing a bunch of grown men in Bills jerseys piled on a school bus. In retrospect. At the time it was just hot and miserable.

Thank God in heaven, we finally, finally made it. Bills training camp, 2008!

I thought this day would never come.

I have to admit, things didn't get much better from there. Mark was kind of bummed that we'd already missed half of practice. It was around 3 when we finally got there - we left home at 11:30 - and my mood was just shot. My lack of football knowledge didn't help. I knew who was on defense and who was on offense but I don't know enough about the various positions to know who was doing what well and who was screwing up. I also only know five guys by number - Paul Posluszny, Marshawn Lynch, Donte Whitner, Trent Edwards and JP Lossman - so I was definitely lacking the player recognition that I have with the Sabres. Had I been in a better spot I might have been a little more willing to learn something, but this was not the good Heather. Mark mentioned stopping and eating before we left and while I didn't verbally respond, I think it was clear I really just wanted to go home. So I was really grumpy that he wanted to prolong the trip, he was really grumpy that I was so grumpy, and that made me even grumpier because jeez, can't a girl just be grumpy once in a while?

Some football players playing football.


Some football players watching football.

And then the batteries in my camera died and the last piece of my soul died with them.

Only one man had the power to save the day now. That man? Paul Posluszny. Let me explain: I love everything about Paul Posluszny. He seems so sweet and genuine and I just want to hug him. And that's not a euphemism. While he's definitely a cutie pie, I'm not really attracted to him in that way. I've joked with Mark that Poz is my back-up husband in case anything ever happens to him but I really just want to hug him and hang out with him. I already loved the guy and then I read this little piece on him. He's the only player who didn't bring a TV for his dorm room and he also doesn't have a laptop. He's passing his free time by reading. Guns, Germs, and Steel. That's like... a real book. I totally love this kid.

Poz! Save me, please!

After practice a bunch of players lined the field and started signing autographs. Now, I'm not a huge autograph person. I've never, ever stood in a crowd of people for an athlete's autograph before, not even when I was a kid. (I was pretty shy about that kind of thing when I was a kid though so that was probably part of it.) But Mark had suggested bringing a sharpie along and even though I really just wanted to go home I thought, what the heck, why not? This day can't get any worse.


I'm so, so glad I stuck around. Even if I hadn't gotten anything signed, watching Poz in that situation was pretty wonderful. I would never ever criticize a guy just cranking out autographs without paying attention to what he's doing because he's still going out of his way to do something for fans but when a guy takes those few extra seconds to look up and make eye contact with the person he's taking a photo or poster or jersey from and responds to whatever comment they make to him and then looks up again when he hands their stuff back it's really awesome. It's such a small thing but he was out there for a really long time - he was still signing when we left - and he made a lot of people really happy. He went out of his way to fuss over the little guy beside me who was probably five or six. Totally adorable. And hey, Poz even had enough power to make my camera batteries rejuvenate themselves long enough for me to take a few more pictures.

Behold the power of Poz!

Here, for all posterity, is the conversation Paul and I shared today as he signed my jersey:

Heather B: Thanks a lot, Paul.
Paul: No problem.
Heather B: It's really good to see you back on the field.
Paul: Hey, thanks. It's definitely good to be out there again.

I think we really connected.

Poz gets a major thumbs-up for taking the time to write legibly as well. His signature actually looks like his name. I have to give him that over even Hank. A lot of the stuff I've seen with Hank's autograph is basically "HT 10" which is totally lame.

Paul Posluszny, number 51 in your program, number one in my heart.

So thank you, Paul Posluszny. You totally salvaged my day.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

100 Things, Part 3

Yet more things about me.

51. I love my blue background. I decided to switch it up for a bit because I got a few emails complaining about how hard it was to read the white print on the blue background with all the yellow accents, but I'm sorry, I can't do it. I love my blue background. It's me. I hope you'll all stick around but if you really must go, I wish you a long and happy life.

52. I hate the Sabres slug and have since the very first time I laid eyes on it. I know a lot of people have come around to it but I refuse. I will refuse until the day I die. It's been two years and I still haven't purchased anything for myself bearing the slug. I've bought things for other people - if that's what makes them happy, may God be with them - and I have a couple of things that have been given to me but that's it. A Jochen Hecht jersey tee was almost my undoing - I was so pleasantly shocked to discover they even made them! - but fortunately I didn't have any money at the time. (I'm a little worried about the new third jerseys. It makes me nervous that Larry Quinn isn't just saying, "Oh, yeah, we're bringing back the vintage thirds from a couple of years ago." They're going to mess with the beautiful vintage, aren't they?) (If anyone happens to come across one of those car flags with the old logo on it, please let me know!)

53. Mark and I share a car. I usually drive to work and he takes the bus. Originally this was out of necessity but now it's a little more of a choice. Every once in a while we have to kind of juggle to get us both where we need to but for the most part it's pretty manageable.

54. When our last car died - worst car ever, Honda - we went without a car for almost two years. We were fortunate that we both work right on a bus route and we lived in an area where most of the necessities - grocery store, drug store, library, a couple of restaurants - were in fairly easy walking or biking distance. Some things were definitely inconvenient though - try carrying a few days worth of groceries home on your handlebars - so we had to rely a lot more on the kindness of others. The buses also don't run all the way out to our end of town on the weekends so we spent a lot of time at home which even made a homebody like me a little stir crazy after a while.

55. I've always wanted a pick-up truck. My mom used to tell me girls don't drive pick-up trucks which made me wonder if she realized what state we lived in.

56. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and have been told that by various doctors, dentists, and oral surgeons but two things will undo me completely: neck pain and earaches. If I sleep on my neck wrong and I get that annoying crick or a pulled muscle, I'm miserable. And if I get an earache, forget it, I'm done. I'm like a toddler just grabbing at my ear and whimpering until the pain stops.

57. I think the following things and people are overrated: The Sopranos, Brad Pitt, Derek Jeter, Humphrey Bogart, Gone With the Wind, the Dave Matthews Band, Imagine, concept albums, and Slap Shot.

58. I think the following things and people are underrated: How I Met Your Mother, Hanson, Robert Mitchum, Sue Grafton novels, Roy Oswalt, Breaking Away, The Karate Kid, and Billy Joel.

59. My favorite word is "discombobulated." I appreciate that it sounds like what it means. I'm also a big fan of "fisticuffs," which probably goes back to a childhood love of pulp westerns and reruns of Bonanza. I don't like "comely" and "homely." I get them mixed up because I like the way homely sounds more even though it's the one that's more negative. Home is a good thing therefore homely should be a good thing.

60. I've kept a journal since the third grade. I don't write now as regularly as I did when I was younger but I do occasionally pull it out and jot something down. I doubt anyone other than me will ever find them particularly interesting but I love having them all.

61. Pro wrestling is as fake as fake gets but I do think pro wrestlers are amazing athletes. Most of them are a little crazy and lots of them are probably 'roided up but still very impressive. It's been a few years now since I watched any kind of wrestling on a regular basis but my favorites were HBK and Chris Jericho.

62. I can't watch NASCAR on TV but I once got dragged to Talladega against my will by my aunt and uncle and you know what? It was totally awesome. I don't following racing at all but I would go again in a heartbeat.

63. When I need to chill out for a couple of minutes, I cue up My Rifle, My Pony, and Me on my iPod. I find it very soothing. Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson both have warm, comforting voices and both are deeply embedded in my childhood. (Overrated: High Noon, Underrated: Rio Bravo)

64. You might have noticed that my taste often runs to things before my time. My mom was really strict about our entertainment choices when we were young so we watched a lot of old movies and TV and listened to a lot of old music. As we got older she was great about letting us making more choices for ourselves but it was too late, that stuff was in my blood. I either totally miss things that are big with my generation or I come around to them long after the fact. (I don't know if you've heard of this band Nirvana but I think they're going places...)

65. The glaring exception to that was the New Kids on the Block. I was into them hardcore with Donnie being my favorite. (Yes, I recorded their Today Show appearances and downloaded their new song, no, I'm not going to any of their reunion shows.)

66. My favorite smell in the world is fresh Play-Doh.

67. I'm not a huge fan of dumb humor but the one thing that absolutely never fails to make me laugh is the drinking problem gag in Airplane!

68. Give me widescreen or give me death. When I worked at Blockbuster, customers who complained about "those little black bars" got a full lecture, complete with sketches.

69. I almost always have music on in the background. Before I got married I even had the radio or a CD on repeat playing while I slept. And I'm a singer. A terrible singer but a singer. I sing in the shower, I sing in the car, I sing in the classroom, I sing on the treadmill, I sing on my bike, I sing while I blog. I'm that fan behind you who sings along with every single clip of music played at a sporting event. You can't hear me but I'm singing right now. ("He's tradin' in his Chevy for a Cadillac-ac-ac-ac-ac-ac...")

70. If I were on American Idol my big number would be Queen's Somebody to Love.

71. I love sleeping during rainy weather and thunderstorms. I open the windows so I can get the full effect.

72. I'm still upset Firefly was canceled so soon.

73. My favorite board game is Scattergories. I do enjoy a good battle of Trivial Pursuit as well.

74. In Trivial Pursuit I rock at Entertainment, get by pretty well in Sports & Leisure and Arts & Literature (better on the literature side of the category), do so-so in History, and suck hard in Science & Nature and Geography. Especially Geography.

75. I'm a lousy sport when it comes to video games. I'm not very good at them and I will throw the controller, yell at the TV, or just give up all together. When I know I'm screwing up a song in Guitar Hero I just start mashing random buttons while slamming the strum bar over and over. I'm terrible.

100 Things, Part 2

More about me.

26. I've never had an alcoholic drink. I grew up in a teetotaling house. My older brothers never experimented with alcohol or if they did they did an excellent job of sheltering me from it. The crowd I hung out with in high school was very straight-laced. And I never really got involved in that scene in college. I hate the smell of beer, I dislike being around drunk people - they're super annoying when you're the only sober one, and I hate loud, crowded clubs and parties. Now I'm just not that interested in it.

27. I'm fine with other people drinking in my presence however so don't worry if you're planning on hanging out some day. I do occasionally go sit at the bar across the street with some co-workers at the end of the week, I will never complain about people drinking beer at sporting events or fancy little drinks at restaurants, and I even went clubbing with some friends after a co-worker's wedding a couple of summers ago. I even had fun for the first hour or so. When you all start throwing up and groping me, however, I'm out.

28. I've never smoked a cigarette. My dad was a chain-smoker and the whole fatal heart-attack at 38 thing made an impression.

29. I've never done any kind of illegal drug, not even marijuana.

30. I'm really, really boring and always have been. I'm okay with that though.

31. I went through a brief shoplifting phase when I was a kid, probably 7 or 8. I wasn't very good at it though because I had a guilty conscience. I once stole a box of Mr. T crayons but was so worried that my mom would find them that I buried them in the backyard. For at least a month I got worried every time I heard a police siren.

I think it was the cool plastic case that caught my eye.

I'm not sure which one I like more: Brotherhood Black or Buckle Down Brown.

32. My little brother Lee once had a totally awesome Mr. T doll - I'm pretty sure it was this one - and one day my older brothers hid it in the oven. My mom, unaware of Mr. T's presence, turned the oven on to preheat it for dinner. It turns out Mr. T has no power over high heat and also smells really bad when melting. (This really has nothing to do with me, but I love that story and it followed so well from the previous thing.)

33. I find Larry Quinn attractive. Arrogant and pompous? Oh, sure. Terribly handsome? Yep. I also find him interesting to listen to even when he is blowing hot air.

34. I'm a pretty good speller, but the one word I always, always get wrong is "rhyme." If I didn't have Firefox's spell check, it would've been wrong in the previous sentence. I try to spell it differently every time and I still manage to never hit on the correct spelling.

35. If I could wake up in the morning with any talent I don't have right now, it would be the ability to tap dance.

36. I love classic musicals but outside of Singin' in the Rain, my favorite movie musical is The Muppet Movie. The Muppet Movie always makes me feel better about everything. Everything about it is perfect and the songs are to die for. Movin' Right Along? Can You Picture That? I Hope That Something Better Comes Along? And then you have the beautiful bookends of Kermit's hopeful, dreaming The Rainbow Connection at the beginning and the big "dreams come true!" Muppet sing-along finale. Life's like a movie, write your own ending, keep believing, keep pretending, we've done just what we set out to dooooo... Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and yoooooooooou. Ahhhhh... I feel better about life just thinking about it.

37. My favorite Muppet Show Muppet is Fozzie the Bear. My favorite Sesame Street Muppet is Oscar the Grouch.

38. I hate coffee.

39. I have terrible handwriting. I can't even read it sometimes. I have to fill out a communication form about each student for them to take home at the end of the day, describing how their day was and I have to be very careful to write legibly and it is not easy. I've had parents/grandparents complain about it a few times. My writing is small, cramped, and a weird combination of print and cursive. It's not really cursive, I just tend to connect random letters.


40. I unabashedly love the TV show CHiPs. It's a terrible, terrible show. The acting is pretty average, the writing is not good, things blow up way too easily, the wardrobe is hilarious, and I've seen every episode 5 or 6 times at least. But it has some kind of weird voodoo power over me. If I come across it on TV, I stop and watch it and the theme song is on my iPod. I'm a Jon girl though. Even as a kid, I thought Ponch seemed like a bit of a douchebag.

41. Speaking of my iPod, I love my iPod. I'm not a huge gadget person, but I'm not sure I could live without my iPod. If I get in the car to drive somewhere and realize I don't have it, I get the shakes. When we went on vacation last year I forgot my charger and it was miserable trying to make the battery last all week. The only other machines I feel that strongly about are my computer and my DVR.

42. I hate cell phones. I've refused them for years. After I broke my ankle Mark bought me one of those little pay-as-you-go Tracfones - in retrospect I was very fortunate that someone came out of the building across from us just in time to see me fall because I would've been screwed otherwise with the ice and ankle as bad as they were - but I don't have it with me most of the time (don't tell Mark!) and I don't even know what the number is.

43. I hate talking on the phone. I don't even like talking to people I like on the phone. Unfortunately Mark is the same way so our biggest arguments revolve around who's going to make necessary phone calls. I never answer the phone - I figure that's what voice mail is for - and if I have to call someone and I know when they're not going to be home, I will purposely call them so I can just leave a message on their voice mail. So if you need me, just email me, yo.

44. I don't do rides. If a roller coaster is simply fast, I can eventually talk myself into trying it, but if it goes upside down or spins around really quickly, I'm out. I'm a wuss.

45. I'm a total slob when it comes to clothes. I wear the same clothes to work every week and some of those clothes I've worn to work for literally years. I'm a jeans and t-shirt/hoodie girl. But I adore Project Runway. I don't know anything about fashion, but I love watching talented people do something so creative with crazy time and material constraints. I'm in awe.

46. I say I hate sports radio (and I do), but really I'm just not a talk radio person. I have a hard time focusing on people talking for very long when I can't see them. I can't listen to radio talk shows of any kind for more than a few minutes. I can't listen to books on tape. I can't listen to long podcasts in one sitting. Even when I pull up clips on WGR's website specifically to listen to them, I sometimes lose focus and have to come back to them. I need something to look at.

47. After I put the YouTube links in point number 36, I spent at least an hour watching them over and over. I can't quite decide if YouTube is a blessing or a curse.

48. All I want for Christmas is a St. Bernard puppy. I've made Mark promise me numerous times over the past few years that when we bought a house, I could get a dog. I once nannied for a family that had a St. Bernard named Folger and I loved that dog as much as I loved the kids. She was so sweet-natured and so patient with two preschoolers crawling all over her and pulling on her ears and lying all over her and when they were napping she'd curl up at my feet while I read. Plus I just adore big dogs.


49. Shows on my DVR Season Pass: Lost, Friday Night Lights, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, Top Chef, How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, and Battlestar Galactica.

50. I should have been in bed an hour and a half ago at the very least but unfortunately, I'm a night owl and feel the most productive and clear-thinking late at night.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why I Have Hope: Ryan Miller

Let's start with an easy point: At the very least, Ryan Miller can't be worse than he was last year. (Note to Hockey Gods: That's hyperbole. It's not a challenge.) At the end of the season, he was clearly gassed but even before that he wasn't very good. He looked off, he seemed to get rattled a little more easily, he was jumpy on breakaways, and just plain awful in the shootout.

Ladies and gentlemen, our franchise goalie!

No, I kid, I kid. I like Ryan Miller. I think he's a good goalie for the Sabres as they're currently built. He's shown that he's capable of handling odd-man rushes and breakaways and he's shown the ability to be patient in the net and let the shooter make the first move. Considering our team defense is an interesting experience even on the best nights - though some of them are getting better - that's important. He's shown a desire to be good which should be a given for a professional athlete but unfortunately isn't. He's also shown a desire to be better than what he is right now. He was clearly disappointed in how last season went for both him and the team. He didn't hide it and he didn't try to make the final result prettier than it was. They underachieved, he underachieved and he copped to both.

I have hope that Ryan is still getting better. When news of his re-signing first broke I was surprised at how many people at Sabres Edge criticized him based on his age. Yeah, at 28 he's a few years older than a lot of the young guys on the team but I think he has a number of years to improve yet. I scoured the internet last night for some info on when goalies hit their prime and came up empty-handed, but I don't think goalies develop at the same rate as skaters, especially forwards. So much of the position is mental and a lot of that is going to come more with experience. Even though he's 28, Ryan's only been the starting goalie for three years. Three years is not a lot of time over the course of a career, and I don't see why anyone as smart and driven as Ryan can't continue to improve especially since he's still kind of figuring out what works for his unique body and frame. And hello, in three years he's had one bad season and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances. In the first one he and the team were this close before being struck down by some hateful power and the Sabres were only in the second one because he dragged their sorry butts that far.

And come on, who embodies hope right now more than Ryan Miller? Did you see his press conference? It was practically a love fest. Even the media seemed happy. (I know!) Ryan loves Buffalo, loves management, loves the coaching staff, loves his teammates and loves us. He believes in what the team is doing and he believes in the guys in the room and instead of just paying lip service to that, he put his money where his mouth was and made a long-term commitment to the organization. That's awesome. I liked the team before this contract, but after a year of other people telling us that no one wants to play here and management has a horrible reputation among players and Ryan Miller was never going to choose to stay with a bunch of cheap-ass losers, it's pretty darn nice to find out those big talkers don't know everything.

One of my favorite pictures ever. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Monday, July 21, 2008

100 Things, Part 1

I have a half-written post about hope and Ryan Miller, but I dunno, I'm not feeling it tonight. I am feeling like writing something though so I'm going to veer way off-topic. Back when I had a personal blog a lot of people were doing something called "100 Things." The point is simple: List 100 things about you, any 100 things you want. I probably won't make it to 100 tonight. I might never depending on whether or not I enjoy this enough to come back to it. We'll see.

1. My middle name is Lee which is also my mom's middle name and my little brother's first name. Lee and I once had a friend of mine convinced that his middle name was Heather. (You'll be shocked to know that she didn't have a lot of common sense.)

2. Although I grew up in Alabama, I did not live in the country. I actually lived in the 6th largest city in the state and one of the fast-growing cities in the southeast. It kind of sprouted up around us. My mom could probably never afford to move in there now but she happened to catch it at the right time. I graduated in a class of almost 2,000 from this high school. We moved into it when I was a junior and were already outgrowing it. Hoover now has two high schools that size. Mark, who grew up in New York, did grow up in the country. (East Eden, surrounded by corn and cows.)

3. In high school I took AP English and AP Government and Economics. I scored a 5 on the English exam and a 3 on the government exam. I didn't take the economics exam. I hated economics.

4. My major sport was softball but I also played soccer for various rec leagues and basketball in junior high and part of high school.

5. I went to the University of Alabama as a journalism major with the intention of becoming a baseball writer. I hated it. After being a pretty good student all of my life I was suddenly completely disinterested in school and finished the year on academic probation because I quit going to most of my classes halfway through each semester.


6. The classes I continued to attend were my English lit, journalism, and creative writing classes.

7. I wouldn't really say I regret bailing on journalism since I ended up in a field I really love, but I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I'd stayed on that path. I can look back now and see that some of the things I didn't like about journalism would've gotten more interesting or gotten easier as I got deeper into the courses and as I got older and more experienced.

8. I did another year at a community college and then stopped because I had no idea what I wanted to do. I never went back and to this day, I have no degree.

9. I could certainly be making more money if I had a degree and I do sometimes think about that, but I'm pretty happy with where I ended up. It was kind of a happy accident. I do think about going back to school occasionally for teaching or social work, but I've never made the time or the money.

10. I worked full-time for two years at Blockbuster. It had its good points (free rentals, tons of movie discussions, fun co-workers) but eventually the bad points (rude/stupid customers, ridiculously dumb company policies, total gutting of the classics section and pretty much everything not made in the last 5 years) won out. I also moved into management which made me miserable. I am not a management person.

11. I met Mark on the Internet. It was the old DC Comics section of AOL on the Nightwing message board. (Nightwing is the grown-up Dick Grayson and my favorite character.) We emailed for a long time, talked on the phone a few times, and then eventually decided to meet.


12. Mark is my one and only real boyfriend. I was 18 when we met online, 19 when we met in real-life and 21, almost 22, when we got married.

13. Because I have that experience, I do really put a lot of value on good online communication. If you're a regular commenter or if we email on some kind of regular basis, I would definitely refer to you as a friend. (If you would prefer that I don't, you know where to email me :P)

14. I have PCOS. It's not life-threatening in any way but it does make it difficult to get pregnant and/or carry a pregnancy full-term.

15. We underwent various forms of fertility treatments for a couple of years before we ran out of money and sanity. Breaking my ankle was no joy ride but at least my body did me the courtesy of going into almost immediate shock. This is pretty much the worst pain I've ever experienced. We're hoping to begin the adoption process in January. (Piece of advice: NEVER tell a woman who's trying desperately to get pregnant that God might just not mean for her to have children, even if you believe it. Trust me.)

16. When I was young, I was going to name my first born Andrew James after Andrew James Van Slyke and call him A.J. At one point we were going to name our first born after Bryce Paup. And then it was after Alexander Mogilny. I'm not sure where we are on that now.

17. Currently playing in iTunes as I type this: Like Red on a Rose by Alan Jackson which is one of my very favorite love songs. Other favorite love songs are The Luckiest by Ben Folds Five, Fly by Sara Groves (not surprised but I can't find a clip of it online anywhere), Wouldn't It Be Nice by the Beach Boys and Papa Gene's Blues by the Monkees. (If you're unfamiliar with any of these songs, I recommend clicking on the link and checking them out. Heck, even if you know them, listen to them again.)

18. My favorite Monkee is Mike, my favorite Beach Boy is Carl, my favorite Beatle is George, and my favorite member of U2 is Larry.

19. My fantasy band would be as follows: The Edge on guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, Keith Moon on drums, and Freddie Mercury on lead vocals. (Bono, Pete Townshend, and Carl Wilson are runners-up in their respective positions.) Oh, look! Won't Get Fooled Again just came up on iTunes. Weird.

20. My favorite movie is either The Great Escape or Singin' in the Rain depending on what mood I'm in that day. Mary Poppins, Bringing Up Baby, and The Shawshank Redemption are all in the discussion.

21. If I could watch any athlete in his prime who I missed it would be Roberto Clemente with Bobby Orr a close second.


22. My first celebrity crush was Ricky Nelson. My longest running celebrity crush was Harrison Ford. My current celebrity crush is Dennis Quaid, I guess. No one person really stands out at the moment.

23. My girl crush is Kate Winslet.

24. I love nothing more than curling up on the couch and reading all day.

25. I'm currently watching The Wire on DVD. I'm about halfway through the second season so no spoilers please! If I could make everyone watch a current TV show it would be Friday Night Lights.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Bucky Gleason Has Been Abducted By Aliens

(This is my second post in the last 12 or so hours so make sure you read both of them. Please?)

Ummm, Bucky? Is that you? That's your name above the column and that's your deceivingly cheery head shot next to the opening paragraph, but this column sounds... happy? Dare I say, optimistic? Do we need to locate Mulder and Scully?

I do have a few tiny nitpicks to get out of the way. Come on, this is Bucky and me. This is what we do. (Mark, this morning, The Dark Knight still on his mind: "Bucky's your Joker and you're his Batman. You complete each other.")

1. I still think it's a mistake to lump Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, and Brian Campbell into one pile. The Sabres totally screwed up the Drury negotiations, but they made a decision to let Briere walk and they never agreed with Campbell and his agent on what Campbell's worth was. Every single one of the above situations is different.

2. "Jason Pominville is more likely to remain on board rather than join the others who were forced to jump ship." Forced to jump ship? Really, Bucky? Maybe you could make that argument for Briere who definitely got a "Thanks for your time here" offer, but the Sabres wanted to match every offer Drury got including the one he signed with the Rangers and the team negotiated with Campbell all season. FREE agents are FREE to go wherever they want. That's why they're called FREE agents. No one put a gun to anyone's head and forced them to sign elsewhere. Was Drury turned off by the negotiations? I don't know, maybe. That's not the same thing as being chased out of town with torches and pitchforks.

3. "Pommer the Bomber" has to stop. Has there ever been a worse nickname thrown around than that one? It doesn't even make sense for the kind of player Pominville is. Seeing that in print drives me bonkers.

4. The things that Bucky is suddenly excited about - New AHL affiliation! Young core of talent! Long-term contracts! Really good drafting and promising prospects! - are all things that existed a month ago. This is pretty close to the same team we had at the end of the season. A few columns ago the whole organization was happy with mediocrity and now they've suddenly figured out the best way to build a team?

But, even with the above complaints, I do get it. I get that Ryan Miller has become the face of the franchise and is therefore considered a little more important. I get that it was important to get a guy who's come up through the system and gone out of his way to ingrain himself in the community into the fold for a long while. I get that people think the Sabres were forced into signing Thomas Vanek long-term and that Jochen Hecht, as much as I love him, is a (great) complementary piece. I get that it was important for the Sabres to sit down with a player that the national media and national fan base see as a star player and come away with a long-term contract. I get that as important as Vanek and Derek Roy are to the future of the team, it's Ryan Miller's signing who really finally puts some distance between this team and the Drury/Briere team. I get people feeling like Ryan Miller is the big piece in the middle that connects all the preexisting pieces to each other. I really do.

For months, people have been complaining on Sabres Edge that Ryan Miller didn't want to be here and saying they'd believe management was serious about winning when they convinced him to stay. I couldn't believe it when I wandered over there yesterday and found people complaining: it's too many years, it's too much money, he had a terrible season, he never steals games, he's not as good as Lundqvist, he's too old to get better. I should no longer be surprised at people's capacity to move immediately from one complaint to another, but come on. How hard is it to be happy about the one thing you've been demanding for months now even for a few moments? I just don't understand fans who never seem to find any joy in the teams they watch. I usually enjoy a good debate over there - I know, I'm demented - but I had to walk away. I just wanted to be happy.

So I do give Bucky huge props for saying, "This is what will make me happy," and then actually being happy when it happened. If it took signing Ryan Miller to clear the clouds blocking Bucky from seeing all that other good stuff he talked about, hey, whatever. I wasn't sure the ol' Buckster had it in him.

See how easy it can work, Bucky?

Bucky and Heather B. in a moment of uneasy agreement.

More Ryan Miller/The Dark Knight

Well, now that I'm home and really have time to gather my thoughts about Ryan Miller, most of my thoughts have already been written by someone else. dave in Rocha pretty well covers how I feel about the hockey side of things (teams have to make choices and and the Sabres let Briere and Campbell walk in anticipation of this day) and Kate totally nails the emotional side (as dumb as it might seem, it's really sweet when an athlete says he loves the same place you love and makes a commitment to stick around for a while).

It's weird because while I like Ryan Miller and am pretty comfortable with him being the starter for the next handful of years, I don't feel that emotional connection to him that you feel to your favorite players. I love Henrik Tallinder. I love Jochen Hecht. I might even love Derek Roy. I like Ryan Miller. I was totally caught off-guard by how genuinely excited I was when I first heard he had officially re-signed. I think it was partly the emotional component. After constantly being told no one wants to play in Buffalo it's nice to see that someone does like us. I think it was partly the "I told you so" element. He's going to Detroit when? I think it was partly just knowing that it was important for the team - on the ice and off - to get this contract done. I don't know. Whatever the reason, I'm really, really happy.

I think the terms are pretty good too. I'm not sure what will happen if Jhonas Enroth turns out to be as good as he's supposed to be, but that's certainly a question for another day and let's face it, "We have two good goalies!" is not a bad problem to have. It's a lot of money, but it's a fair price based on the market. Honestly, I was expecting the cap hit to be closer to $7 million than $6 million. So yeah. I'll take it.

Since Ryan Miller has been pretty much covered, let's move on to the next important thing. The Dark Knight. I'm not really going to go into any plot spoilers, but I am assuming basic comic book knowledge. If you don't know what happens to Harvey Dent eventually, you might want to skip out and just trust me, the movie is awesome and worth your money.

Let me preface this little review with a brief note of explanation. We're comic book geeks at my house with Batman being a personal favorite. Batman is the reason Mark and I met in the first place. Our Batman is not the Batman of the 60's TV show, all shiny and happy. Our Batman is dark and brooding, carefully straddling the line of good and evil, right and wrong. The Dark Knight? Pretty much the perfect Batman movie for us.

Mark and I had a long discussion about some of the comparisons we'd read of this movie to others and we decided that Empire Strikes Back really works for a couple of reasons. One, it tops the movie that preceded it which was already pretty darn good. Two, it's much darker and well, quite frankly pretty unhappy. Batman Begins, like A New Hope ends on a fairly optimistic note. Things aren't perfect, but they just might be okay in the future. In Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight, everything goes to hell. Relationships are tested, things done with the best of intentions go wrong, terrible things happen and no one really gets a happy ending.

Harvey Dent/Two-Face is my very favorite villain in all of comicdom. The only show/movie to ever get him right however is Batman: The Animated Series. (And that's not meant as an insult. B:TAS kicks ass.) I was pretty irate over the Two-Face that appeared in Batman Forever because there's no backstory. Two-Face just shows up as this stupid, comical character who flips a coin. It's terrible. (Like most comic geeks, I feel very strongly that Joel Schumacher is the worst thing to happen to Batman ever.) Two-Face is a deeply tragic character and the reason he is that is because of Harvey, his former position as Gotham City District Attorney and his pre-existing relationships with Batman and Jim Gordon. If you skip all that, you really short-change the character so I was so, so glad to see The Dark Knight really take the time to develop Harvey Dent. I love Harvey Dent. I knew roughly what was going to happen - things go down a little differently than they do in his comic origin - and I was still a total mess. And we're not talking delicate tears streaming quietly down my face. We're talking full-body sobs. Am I lame? Totally. But that's how I roll, yo.


I'll say three things about Heath Ledger as Joker. One, he somehow manages to be both hilarious and terrifying, usually at the same time. More than once he said something that was so funny I really wanted to laugh, but it's in the middle of a brutal scene and I was kind of uncomfortable with laughing. Two, if I didn't know that was Heath Ledger, I wouldn't know it was Heath Ledger. He totally disappears in the role. If you're at all worried about how weird it'll be to watch him, knowing it's one of his last roles - or maybe his last depending on what Terry Gilliam can salvage from the movie they were shooting at the time of his death - I wouldn't worry about it. You'll forget it's him after a few minutes. And three, if Ledger gets a posthumous Oscar nomination, it won't be a sympathy vote. It'll be because he's THAT GOOD. I've spent a lot of time ribbing Mark about how he doubted Robert Downey, Jr. would be a good fit for Iron Man. I told him he was crazy, RDJ was practically born for Tony Stark. He reminded me today that when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker it was me who had doubts and him who was saying, "No, I think it might be cool." I'll gladly eat crow. I was wrong about Heath Ledger as the Joker. He is amazing and absolutely deserving of all the raves he's getting.

I hate to be all cheesy and say, "This movie is so much more than just a comic book movie!" but... this movie is so much more than just a comic book movie. There are special effects and chase scenes and lots of things blow up. But that stuff never overshadows the characters and the story those characters are telling. There are a lot of pretty serious themes going on: What's good, what's evil, how thin the line between the two is, and how hard that line is to define and how easy it is to cross. It's a fantastic movie. Not a fun one per se - tough to watch at times and not all that happy - but pretty darn interesting and so well-done. The writing, directing and acting are all top notch. See it. But if you see it and don't like it, keep it to yourself because I will think less of you and probably question our friendship.

(I'm kidding.)

(Mostly.)

(Please don't take your small children.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Woot! Woot!

I can't say a lot right now because I'm on my way out the door to see The Dark Knight, but I just wanted to say a quick word to everyone who's been insisting that Ryan Miller hates Sabres management. That he didn't think the franchise was committed to winning. That Darcy Regier would bungle the talks and that Golisano and Quinn would nix the money. That, in his heart of hearts, Ryan really wanted to be a Red Wing.

Bite me!

WoooOOOOOoooooooOOOOOOooOOOOOOoOO00!

I was right, you were wrong.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Fun With Anonymous Commenters

This comment on my All-Star Game blog popped up in my email a couple of hours ago:

Are you Tim McCarver's love child? Because you sound like his whiny, Natinoal League loving ass! You both are giant tools.

Well, I do love the National League. And I did do quite a bit of whining about their eleven - now twelve - consecutive losses to the American League. So... you got me? I guess?

This is the second anonymous commenter to call me a tool though. Is there something you guys aren't telling me?

Hey, has anyone heard anything about mini-packs this season? I know they were technically discontinued, but last season pre-existing mini-pack holders - like say, me - were allowed to keep them. Is it the same deal this year or am i going to be fighting for scraps with the rest of you non-season ticket holders?

Me, in about 18 seconds.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Odds and Ends

- In honor of Danny Paille's new contract, I sound a barbaric "Yippe Paille, Mother@#!$@&!" (Link includes language that might not be safe for work.)

I was a little surprised that the deal was only for two years, but I'm not sure it isn't a good idea. Paille's only played one full season in the NHL and while it was a pretty impressive one at times, I think teams need to be careful about the trend of investing a lot of time and money into young players based on potential. You can probably get away with doing that for a couple of people, but if you do it with too many you run a risk of really screwing yourself if someone doesn't pan out. If I'm understanding things correctly, Paille will still be a RFA at the end of this deal and at that point I think the Sabres will have a better idea what kind of player they have on their hands. Maybe it costs them a little more money in the long run, but it'll be based on a much larger sample. I'm definitely curious to see what Paille develops into. I did not expect 19 goals from him - I'm not sure he expected 19 goals from himself based on some interviews - so it'll be interesting to see if that keeps up or if he settles into being more of a mucker and grinder. One thing's for sure, the money is very good. I was surprised he's getting less than a million in his first year. That's a very good cap hit.

- I'm not a puck bunny, I think we've made that clear. I'm married, I'm increasingly older than a lot of the players, and quite frankly, considering some of the stories I've heard about some of the Sabres, I'm not entirely convinced bagging a hockey player is all that hard much less something to be proud of. If I ever dump my husband it's not going to be for a skanky-ass pro athlete. I am, however, a female and I do occasionally notice if a hockey player happens to be good-looking. In response to a fan video posted on Puck Daddy (you can't see me but I'm rolling my eyes at the stupid name of that otherwise fine blog), Margee of Sportsquee fame is taking a poll on who fans think are the best-looking players in the NHL. For the curious, here's my list in no particular order.

1. Henrik Tallinder, BUF (Unless this is your first day, this should be obvious.)
2. Jochen Hecht, BUF (I get why he isn't a big puck bunny target - he's a little older, he's married, he has young children, he seems terribly shy - but it doesn't change the fact that Jochen is Smokin'.)
3. Travis Zajac, NJ
4. Mike Fisher, OTT (Yeah, even if he is a Senator.)
5. Sammy Pahlsson, ANA
6. Mike Komisarek, MON
7. Jay McKee, STL (Forever and ever, amen.)
8. Saku Koivu, MON (Also owner of the best name in hockey.)
9. Marty Turco, DAL (Dependably good-looking. He's like the neighborhood dad you had a crush on when you were a kid.)
10. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET

Guys, feel free to chime in with your own list of dreamy players! If you want to know even more about my Squee history and you missed it the first time around, check out my full interview with Margee. And for pete's sake, read her blog.

- Speaking of Sportsquee, today Life_As_A_Redhead dropped this amazing link on me in the comment section over there. It's a website for a cattle breeder but check this out (click on the picture to see a larger image because you really need to see the print):


This might be the best thing I've seen all week. I'm always amused when hockey shows up in unexpected places like this.

- In roughly 48 hours from this typing, I'll be leaving The Dark Knight. I'm super stoked. Tickets have already been purchased for an IMAX showing and it better be good because I can't remember the last time Mark and I have both been looking forward to a movie so much.

- Still not enough Heather B. for ya? Then check out this post, co-written by Katebits and me. (You should be reading the Willful Caboose every day anyway.) Kate and I have longed dreamed of being the only two people in Buffalo to buy season tickets and once again, we got a little lost in the fantasy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Top Shelf Watches the All-Star Game

Here we go...

PREGAME

Let's get this out upfront. I'm a National League girl. I grew up cheering for the Pirates while living in Braves country. We got the Braves on TBS and the Cubs on WGN. Since those were the days before interleague play, I rarely saw an AL team play outside of the postseason. I hate the Yankees. I hate the Red Sox just a little less. I'm really tired of the American League winning even though yes, they are totally better. Go, National League, go!

Pretty cool how they're introducing the Hall of Famers by position and then bringing out tonight's starters. Dude, Wadge Boggs in the Yankees hat? So not right. I don't care if he and the Red Sox hate each other, I'll always see him in a Boston hat.

Over at Inside Pitch Mike Harrington talked about how cool it was to be able to talk to some of the Hall of Famers assembled here. If I had 40 minutes with these guys, I think I'd hit up Bill Mazeroski, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Schmidt, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Tony Gwynn, Hank Aaron, and Yogi Berra. Not sure in what order though.

Okay, I'll be honest, I was kind of dreading the long drawn-out intro but that was pretty nice. I'm sure the rest of the night will be so drenched in "Stars and Pinstripes Forever!" that I'll be ready to throw my laptop through the TV but for now, I'm okay.

FIRST INNING

Three up, three down for the NL. Even Lance, my little chunky monkey. Jeez, no wonder we never win.

Cue the Derek Jeter love fest. Joe Buck: "Jeter has done nothing but win since coming to the Majors." Tim McCarver: "When the Yankees last won the World Series in 2000..." I'm not sure he meant to point out that it's been 8 years since the Yankees won a championship but I'll take it.

When I see the previews for Tropic of Thunder I'm torn between my hatred for Ben Stiller and my love for Robert Downey, Jr. I think RDJ as a white actor playing a black guy is going to win out in the end. Oh, wait... Is the first inning over?

SECOND INNING


Our first base hit! Ugh, Chipper Jones. I hate that guy! Well, I guess I'll take it. When did he get to be 36, by the way? He and Derek Jeter are just baby-faced youngsters, right?

Matt Holliday bounces a dribbler down the first base line but Chipper goes to second. Runner in scoring position! Come on, Ryan Braun! Annnnd he strikes out.

A Budweiser commercial that splices together a lot of famous home runs over the years was just on and that little glimpse of a hobbled Kirk Gibson pumping his right arm as he rounds the bases after his home run in Game One of the 1988 World Series gives me chills. When I look back on my life as a sports fan, that moment is so vivid it's like I was just watching it last night.

As Manny Ramirez walks back to the dug-out after striking out, Buck says, "And Ramirez will be thinking about that at-bat." Somehow I doubt that. I'm not convinced that Manny thinks about his at-bats while they're actually happening which is fine with me. Since he's not on my time, I find him pretty amusing. I particularly appreciate how he can swing from looking like an entire comedy troupe to looking like a Gold Glover in left field over the course of two plays.

Man, what is with the stolen bases? I know it's an exhibition but maybe you guys could attempt to hold the runners a little closer to first base?

Fox has put a lot of stupid stuff on my TV screen over the years but one thing I do kind of like is the Hot Zone where they break the strike zone up into 9 sections and show the batter's average for each location. I can't reel off a ton of stats or anything but I do enjoy that baseball has a stat for just about everything. If I wanted to find Berkman's average from the left side against right handed pitchers in at-bats that take place after 9:34 p.m. under a three-quarter moon, I'm sure I could.

THIRD INNING

One of my favorite things about Yogi Berra is that he was (so I hear) such a good bad ball hitter. I was always kind of a sucker for high pitches so I feel like we're kindred spirits. I love hearing old baseball players tell their stories. As much as I've come to love hockey, if you told me I could sit down with a Hall of Fame hockey player or a Hall of Fame baseball player, I'm taking the baseball player. Those are the guys I was fascinated with as a kid, its their grainy footage and photos I pored over and I think there's something forever special about that childhood link.

Ha ha. Jeter hits into a double play. Man, I know I complain about this thing being too long but it's cranking along. Too bad it's REALLY BORING!

FOURTH INNING

Very cool footage of Mariano Rivera showing Roy Halladay and Scott Kazmir how he throws his cutter. I love seeing stuff like that. But while we're looking at that footage let me say, what is the point of American/National League jerseys when they don't even wear them in the game? And thank god they don't because those gray NL hats are pretty awful.

Albert Pujols hits a long shot into the corner of right field but gets nailed trying to stretch it into a double. I think he was actually safe, but it was a perfect throw from Ichiro who McCarver just compared to Roberto Clemente. I don't know... That's hallowed ground where I come from. COME ON, NATIONAL LEAGUE! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?

I've never heard of this movie The Perfect Game but I already adore the scene where the kid catches the pop fly, all his teammates pile on, and the ump comes out to say, "Coach, there's more than one out in a baseball game?" Totally cute. (The trailer on the website is much more dramatic than the TV spot.)

Ha ha. Alex Rodriguez - I hate the nickname A-Rod and refuse to use it - struck out.

Manny Ramirez's Hot Zone looks a lot like Mauer's - both are weaker low and on the inside corner but McCarver disagrees. "Manny is not hitting .160 low and in." Tim, it's a stat. You can't argue it. You can say that it doesn't really matter since he hits well pretty much everywhere else, but you can't say it isn't true.

Milton Bradley is picked off at first. I told you guys to hold the runners. Nice.

FIFTH INNING

Matt Holliday puts the NL on top with a home run to right field! I believe Matt Holliday is Lee's boy so go, Matty!

I'm bored so here's Heather's Favorite Baseball Players, Childhood Edition

1. Andy Van Slyke
2. Jeff Bagwell
3. Mark Grace
4. Ryne Sandberg
5. Greg Maddux (but I wouldn't admit it until years later because he was a dirty, rotten Brave)

Honorable mention: Jay Bell, Mike LaValliere, Craig Biggio, and Kirby Puckett. Jay Bell should really probably be in the top five but I couldn't figure out who to bump so consider him 5b.

Berkman actually doesn't look that chunky right now. I think he's slimmed down some. I don't think I like it. Ooh, Nate McLouth is in! There is a Pirate on the field!

Two runners on, two outs, Jeter at the plate. If Jeter puts the AL up here, I'm not going to be happy. I will have to conclude that the Baseball Gods still hate me, even after all these years.

Jeter bounces out to the pitcher! The Baseball Gods love me! The Pirates will be in the World Series, count on it!

SIXTH INNING

Hanley Ramirez gets a base hit. Thank goodness because I was really starting to fall asleep. Tim McCarver's latest piece of wisdom: "It's a fallacy to believe pitchers get the pitch exactly where they want it every time." Does anyone really believe that?

Another hit! Runners on first and third with Lancelot at the plate. Come on, Berk, give us some insurance! Yes! Deep fly to center that gets the runner in. Way to go, Big Fat Elvis Puma!

Pujols singles up the middle! Wow, it's like a real baseball game all of a sudden!

McCarver and Buck start talking about George Steinbrenner and I have to admit, as much as I hate the Yankees, it was pretty sad to see him looking so unwell when they carted him out on the field earlier. George should be sitting in the owner's box and saying obnoxious things to the media. Something's not quite right in the baseball world when that's not happening. I might be pretty bummed when he finally leaves us.

Joe Buck is really trying to get all his Hamilton talking points in, but Hamilton's at-bats aren't lasting long enough. This time around we do learn that Hamilton is tested 3 times a week as part of his reinstatement which I already knew. It is pretty remarkable that he played something like 15 minor leagues games over the past six years before popping into the Majors again. It's clear why he got drafted out of high school.

SEVENTH INNING


Okay, seriously, I'm so ready to shuttle God Bless America in the seventh inning stretch. The All-Star Game should feature Take Me Out to the Ballgame for crying out loud! My favorite version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame is Carly Simon's. I actually have two versions by her and I love both of them. I like that this one includes the verses - which are about how much a girl loves baseball, by the way - but I can't find the other version which I like a little better. It's very slow and it's just Carly's voice and then a piano.

J.D. Drew ties up the game with a two run home run. Boooooo! Every year I think the NL might finally win and every year the AL comes back toward the end of the game. I hate the AL!

EIGHTH INNING

I hope Robert Patrick and James Cameron made an ass load of money for handing over Terminator 2 to DirecTV commercials because otherwise there is just no excuse. Years later Patrick totally freaks me out in that role and it's tough to take him seriously after watching that stupid commercial over and over.

Tim McCarver says he thought Jonathan Papelbon's remarks about Mariano Rivera were respectful and he just doesn't understand what the problem was. Well, Tim, it's like this: Yankees fans are jackasses. They're giving Papelbon a really hard time, starting up an O-VER-RATE-D chant which stops immediately when he strikes out a batter with a high fastball clocked at 95 mph. Still, the NL goes back up (yay!) and he gets some hearty boos as he walks off the field.

Brian Wilson is pitching for the NL. Really? Never heard of this guy unless we're talking about the Beach Boy. I'm really enjoying the footage we keep seeing of Joe Girardi warming up pitchers in the bullpen. Once a catcher, always a catcher. I really liked Joe during his initial run with the Cubbies so I'm rooting for him in New York although not if it means the Yankees winning. Which is tricky.

Evan Longoria ties up the game again. If I stayed up to watch the AL win this thing again, I'm going to be annoyed. I should be in bed right now.

NINTH INNING


Corey Hart? If you're going to share a name with a musician, Brian Wilson is a much better choice.

I can't believe that Fox just cut away from Mariano Rivera's entrance from the bullpen. The game is in Yankee Stadium, one of their most beloved players with one of the most famous entrances in baseball is coming in, and Fox cuts away. Francona probably brought him in in the middle of the inning so he could get his big entrance and Fox cuts away. Fox is stupid. I hate the Yankees - have I mentioned that? - and even I love a good Mo entrance.

Listen, I don't know if I can do extra innings. I really need to go to bed. I have a long day of chasing kids and dodging furniture ahead of me. I'm not sure I'm that invested in who wins this game.

TENTH INNING


I'm telling you, I'm out of here at midnight.

Heather's Favorite Baseball Players, Current Edition

1. Lance Berkman
2. Roy Oswalt
3. Travis Hafner
4. Jason Bay (although I have one eye on Nate McLouth)
5. John Smoltz

Honorable mentions: Jason Varitek, Mariano Rivera (shhh, don't tell), Jake Peavy (Man, too many pitchers!)

Holy cow! I don't know what inning it is anymore because I'm really trying to edit this and get to bed, but Nate McLouth just made a beautiful throw from center field to Russel Martin at the plate who made a great tag/block to keep the game tied. That was very, very nice. Forget home runs, I could watch plays like that all night long. Um, except for tonight. Because I'm going to bed now. Sorry.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Top Shelf Reviews: God Save the Fan and Saved

But first! I'm really not a huge fan of the Home Run Derby. Home runs are not my thing. I think it gets pretty boring watching them after a few minutes and the Derby seems to get longer every year. Something that would be a fun little 30-45 minute exhibition is forced into being some kind of spectacle and it doesn't work for me. But I tuned in this year to watch Lance Berkman and thank goodness I did because Josh Hamilton's display in the second round was amazing. I won't repeat his whole story here because chances are you've heard it, but if you're not familiar with Hamilton I highly recommend this recent Sports Illustrated piece. He's an amazing story. I admit it, watching Hamilton stand at home plate with an ear-to-ear grin on his face while the crowd went crazy made me a little teary-eyed. Just one of those fabulous moments where you're watching so much more than just a sporting event.

Okay, moving on...

It's the off-season and I recently had a week off from work - Regents exams gypped me out of my usual two weeks this year - so I had a little bit of time to sit down and read a few books. A couple of the books I read were sports-related so here are a couple of reviews for your enjoyment. While I fully endorse you reading all the hockey blogs you want, especially this one, you should think about reading a book too, especially if you haven't done so recently. It won't hurt, I promise.

First up is God Save the Fan: How Preening Sportscasters, Athletes Who Speak in the Third Person, and the Occasional Convicted Quarterback Have Taken the Fun Out of Sports (and How We Can Get It Back) by Deadspin.com founder Will Leitch. (I actually started reading this a few days before school ended but it was tough to hide that cover from the kids.) Before I get into the review I'll admit that I have mixed feelings about Deadspin. Obviously, I'm pro-blogs and blogger, and I think Leitch and company have done a tremendous job of providing coverage for fans who didn't feel like they were getting what they wanted. I think the site is often well-written and funny. But I'm not a regular reader for a few reasons. One, I never got over their site re-design, requiring you to click through to read every single thing which is just a weird quirk I have.* Two, you have to wade through a lot of basketball and football which I don't particularly care for to get to the baseball and hockey. Three, its target audience is clearly very male. So while I was definitely interested in reading this book, I'm not a huge Deadspin devotee.

The book is a group of essays, some shorter than others, split into four groups: Players, Owners, Media and Fans. Each section concludes with a glossary that goes along with that section's theme. As an example, here's the entry for Buffalo Bills fans: "Still shell-shocked from those four Super Bowl losses, now happy to just have the team hanging around to make living in Buffalo at least slightly interesting. That is, until the team leaves for San Antonio or Los Angeles. Thinks O.J. is innocent."**

I hate the glossaries. I read every entry and while a few of them are really funny, most of them are space-fillers and a lot of them repeat something Leitch already made a point of in one of the essays or in a previous glossary. If he was really attached to this idea, it should have gone at the end of the book, I think.

Unfortunately, I think the essays are pretty hit and miss too. Again, some of them are very funny and occasionally insightful, but most of them are only mildly amusing and they don't really say anything that hasn't already been said, especially if you're a Deadspin reader. Only one of the essays is a direct rip from Deadspin.com (the very amusing John Rocker interview) but most of them are ideas and thoughts that have been expressed there so there's nothing that feels new or different here. You're not really reading a print copy of the blog... but you kind of are.

The one essay I remember a couple of weeks later is entitled "What Athletes are Talking About When They're Talking About God" and while I'm always interested in hearing about how pro athletes weave their religious and spiritual beliefs into their very unorthodox and temptation-filled lives, I think part of the reason it stuck with me is because it seemed so un-Deadspin. Leitch writes about Zach Johnson, the unexpected winner of the 2007 Masters, and how immediately after the win he said, "Jesus was with me every step of the way," and then started crying. Reporters groan and wait for him to say something interesting and fans roll their eyes and complain that no one ever thanks God when they lose and that God doesn't care who wins or loses and I admit, I fully expected the essay to go right along with that idea. Leitch went completely the other way on me though:

While we (non-Christians) see someone acting as if he won because Jesus Christ decided he deserved to win more than the other guy - as if Jesus said, "Hey, Johnson's a nice guy, let's move his ball closer to the cup on that drive" - a Christian sees it as something else entirely - that is, a humble acknowledgment that nothing any person does can be attributed to themselves. It's a guard against pride... Just because they believe Jesus was with them while they won, that doesn't mean they believe Jesus was only with them... Why this bothers us more than, say, LeBron James flashing his Nike logo every time he talks to Jim Gray is bewildering.

And while it's possible that yes, I just quoted the one essay in the book that the average sports fan might not care about, I think the book could've used more pieces like this. It's a perspective we haven't heard over and over about an issue that doesn't get as much press as how much ESPN sucks. I understand why so much of the book deals with why so-and-so and such-and-such suck - that's what the Deadspin Empire is built on - but it's all very been there, read that. But like I said, I'm not a huge devotee of Deadspin and therefore probably not the target audience for God Save the Fan. If Leitch had wandered too far from what got him to this point it's possible that I would've really liked the book but everyone else would've hated it.

Back when I first started watching hockey, I immediately went out looking for hockey books of any kind. I didn't know anything about how the game worked, I knew very little about the sport's history, and I didn't know any of the characters beyond the obvious stars of my youth so I had a lot of catching up to do. (Note to writers: More hockey-related books, please!) My favorite out of that first batch of books I read - maybe my favorite still - was Jack Falla's Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds. It's pretty much what the title suggests and has nothing to do with the NHL, but I loved it almost immediately. I've never set foot on a backyard rink - although we did have a frozen pond once, just for a few days - but it made me feel like I had and the feeling that I really needed to learn to ice-skate started way back then. If you've never read Home Ice I highly recommend it. It's one of those books that's about sports on the surface but really about something deeper - how sports can connect us to the people and places we love even years later. It's really lovely.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find Saved, Falla's first novel on the new book shelf at the library not that long ago. Saved is the story of veteran goalie J.P. Savard and his best buddy and Boston teammate Cam Carter. Both guys are veterans who know their window for winning a Stanley Cup is just about to close. Nothing earth-shattering happens and chances are you might figure out some of the plot points before they come but that's okay because the book is funny and sweet and tough and seems realistic. Falla covered hockey for Sports Illustrated among other places and his characters and the situations they find themselves in are totally believable. My only complaint would be how every character uses sports cliches and references in their daily life. One of the characters, newly married, says he and his wife are going to enjoy themselves for a while before "pulling the goalie." Maybe athletes really do talk like that but if so, well, thank god I didn't marry one because I don't think I could handle that. It's a minor complaint though. Saved won't change your life but it's perfect for a nice, relaxing read while on vacation or wrapped up in a quilt on the couch.

* - In addition to hating having to click through to read complete posts, I also hate those links that show little pop-up images of the site being linked to. Ugh.

** - Not true. When my brothers-in-law went to Canton for Jim Kelly's Hall of Fame induction they took a picture of one of them strangling O.J.'s bust. I think most Bills fans think of O.J. (allegedly) murdering his wife as one more example of why God hates them.